Technology to improve transport for people in remote and rural area such as Shetland is being devised by scientists at the University of Aberdeen.
The software will allow individuals to post their travel requirements before being automatically “paired up” with potential transport options for their journey.
A three-year project will also bring together timetable and contact information on all of the transport providers within a given geographical area – including bus services and taxi firms.
The scientists are developing a prototype of the software, which they believe could provide economic and environmental benefits by encouraging shared journeys and higher vehicle occupancy. It would potentially be accessed by rural dwellers via a website, by telephone or in the form of a public information portal.
Director of transport research John Nelson said: “For rural dwellers without access to a private car, transport choices can be limiting – for example only 57 per cent of households in rural areas are within a 13-minute walk of an hourly or better bus service.
“The aim is to develop technology which would improve the relationship between transport supply and demand in rural and remote parts of the country.
“The software would enable a more integrated and co-ordinated approach to transport services within rural communities by pulling together information on all of the transport provisions within a given geographical area – from bus to private taxis.
“Those seeking transport would post details of their intended trip – including the date, time and the estimated cost they would be willing to pay for their journey. The software would then automatically ‘match-make’ the passenger with the various transport options available to them.
“These options could include information about suitable bus services available, or details of the potential for a shared taxi journey with another individual who has posted similar journey requirements.”
Researchers plan to engage with a rural community which would input into the design of the software and test prototypes through the technology’s various stages of development.
Prof Nelson said: “It is paramount that the software we create is easy for the general public to access and use, so engaging with those who would actually use the system will be an important part of the design process.
“We hope that by improving the relationship between passengers and transport providers, the software could encourage increased use of public and shared transport in rural areas to both the economic and environmental benefit of communities.”